Where is Velupillai Prabhakaran, the beleaguered pedelar ‘Eelam dream’ to ethnic Tamils of Sri Lanka? Is he alive? Has he fled the Island? These questions have sparked off intense speculation in the media and conjectures amongst the strategic experts as the area under Tiger’s control shrunk to a small corner of Mullaitivu, which some reports say is no more than 450 sqkm.
It appears from accounts from various quarters that Prabhakaran has not fled the Island. In fact, he is very much in Mullaitivu, surrounded by his trusted lieutenants, says Policy Research Group (POREG) in its report on Sri Lanka situation.
The Sri Lanka Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka on Saturday told reporters in Colombo Friday Jan 17 night that the Tigers’ supremo was no longer there in Wanni and added that the he might have slipped out of the island. There is no word from the Tigers camp.
But the developments since then show that the claim is not substantiated. It could be a pure conjecture aimed at scoring a few more brownie points. In fact, it could also be part of psychological warfare that has been unleashed in the past couple of weeks to supplement the success of Fonseka forces on the war front.
There has been speculation in Sri Lanka press since Thursday, Jan 15, that Velupillai Prabhakaran had fled to Penang in Malaysia, where, according to reports, the Tigers have considerable clout amongst the local Tamils. Interestingly all the media speculation banked on unnamed army sources.
Reports in Colombo dailies also said it was possible that Prabhakaran could have fled to a European country, where his family lives. ‘The Tigers have no funds crunch; with money they could buy their way out for their boss and whisk him away to some other country. This has not happened as yet.
Gen Sarath Fonseka is known for shooting his mouth wide and often put his foot-in-the mouth with his off the cuff remarks. But in the instant case, he may have dropped the ‘fled’ bomb rather deliberately.
His strategy is to put pressure on the Tigers and make Prabhakaran to pop up to prove the government wrong.
In the past taunts from Colombo had made Prabhakaran to emerge in the open though after a gap of two or three days. By this logic, it will not come as a surprise if Prabhakaran makes his presence felt in Wanni over the next day or two in discredit General Sarath Fonseka.
On his part, the SL army chief, was at his taunting best at the media interaction.
‘Prabhakaran is a man who loves food, a man who loves his family, so I don’t think he would wait until the military got so close to him’, Foneska said. He added the only way out for the cornered Tiger boss was escape ‘by the sea or the cyanide pill’. According to the General, he must have escaped through the sea.
Tiger cadres wear a cyanide capsule around their neck and when caught, they quietly swallow the pill to avoid life in the lock up. And General Foneska has theorized: ‘He will neither commit suicide as he exhorts his followers to do with cyanide capsules, nor allow himself to be captured like Saddam (former Iraqi president)’
It is not clear how long the army operation will continue. Though a multi-pronged attack is mounted, and there is not much resistance, Mullaitivu is unlikely to fall immediately. The 58 Division commanded by Brigadier Shavendra Silva has captured Tharmapuram by last week end and are poised to enter Visvmamadu. The eastern sea coast is about 15km from there.
Troops of 55 Division on offensive march have confronted with groups of LTTE terrorists in five separate occasions in general area Chundikulam on Monday January 19. Troops suffered minor damages during the confrontations, a military report received from the battlefront said. In support of troops 59 Division, air force fighter jets raided LTTE defences located south of Mullaitttivu twice on Jan 19 and the air force claimed, ‘LTTE terrorists were seen constructing an earth bund using heavy earth moving vehicles. These vehicles were destroyed’
Significantly, the Army chief himself is setting a mid-April target. It means the final victory will coincide with Simhala New Year. The time frame suits President Rajapaksa who is planning provincial elections and who hopes that victories in battle field could translate into votes in ballot filed, says PRG in its report on Sri Lanka situation